Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week we take a look at This Is Trojan Reggae, Beat Girls Espanol! and Three Steps To Heaven.
This Is Trojan Reggae (Trojan TJDCD 566)/This Is Trojan Ska (TJDCD 567)
Founded in 1968, Trojan Records is therefore 50 years old, and the half century celebrations are kickstarted by the release of these new compilations, each 2 CD digipack sets priced to sell at around £10 and accompanied by informative 16 page booklets. Both consist of vintage Jamaican music, and of the two, the one that I find most alluring is This Is Trojan Ska, which brings together 50 seminal ska recordings made in the early to mid 1960s. They are generally less well known and mostly uncharted but have an unmistakable and contagious spirit. Among those more familiar titles are Lord Tanamo's irresistible pimping of I'm In The Mood For Love as I'm In The Mood For Ska, Desmond Dekker's infectious 007 (Shanty Town) and Lee Perry's What A Good Woodman. Some tracks have ropey sound... But that goes with the territory, and overall they make for a fine ska primer. More likely to secure sales, This Is Trojan Reggae includes 49 recordings, all but 10 of which have made the UK Top 50. At their best, they are sensational: Bob & Marcia's Young, Gifted & Black is a joyous celebration surpassing Nina Simone's original; Rupie Edwards' Irie Feelings (Skanga) is a brilliant bass-heavy effects-laden deconstruction of Johnny Clarke's Everyday Wondering that defies most of the rules that applied to hit records in 1974, yet ended up in the Top 10; and Boris Gardiner's I Wanna Wake Up With You is a sumptuous slice of lover's rock, and one of four No.1s on the album.
Beat Girls Espanol! (Ace International CDTOP 1512)
It's the year of the woman and, coincidentally or not, Ace has chosen to add to its already considerable collection of albums spotlighting girl singers of the 1960s from France, Italy, Japan and Sweden - by releasing this gem, which collects together 24 predominantly uptempo, largely original recordings of Spanish vocalists. Recorded between 1965 and 1971 - thus slightly compromising the album's sub-title of 1960s She-Pop From Spain - it is, as you might expect mostly beat-oriented pop, some of it coloured with flamenco and other innately Spanish stylings. Massiel - who beat Cliff Richard to claim the Eurovision crown in 1968 - is here heard two years earlier, with a bright, nicely orchestrated No Se Por Que, the flipside of her first single; Slick girl group Los Mismos' simple but pleasing Voy A Pintar Las Paredes Con Tu Nombre was, understandably, a domestic chart-topper for them; and Ya Veras is a cheery tune with a much-repeated jangly guitar phrase, and was written for Karina by top instrumental group Los Pekenikes. Covers? Sonia's Aqui En Mi Nube is a charming remake of The Rolling Stones' Get Off My Cloud; Pic Nic's El Es Distinto A Ti is a pleasant retelling of Janis Ian's story of teenage inter-racial love, Society's Child; and Rosalia's Se Llegera El Amor is a good version of Are You Ready For Love, which failed to become a hit in the UK for either Lulu or Gloria Hunniford, and was also recorded in Swedish by Abba legend Agnetha Faltskog.
Three Steps To Heaven (Crimson CRIMCD 609)/Teenager In Love (CRIMCD 610)
The enormous success of UMOD's Dreamboats & Petticoats series - which has generated a whole new market for the recordings of the late 1950s and early 1960s - has also spawned a series of imitators, some of them pretty poor, and consisting of re-recordings. I'm pleased to say that's not the case here: these cheap (selling at around £6) and cheerful triple CD sets, clad in serviceable digipacks, packed with classic, original timeless hits. Each has 57 songs, every one of which will be familiar to those who lived through the era. Teenager In Love is more pop-oriented, and Three Steps To Heaven is more edgy, hence the inclusion of tracks like Smokestack Lightnin' by Howlin' Wolf, I Hear You Knockin' by Smiley Lewis and Bill Justis' 1957 Grammy winner, Raunchy, a guitar-led instrumental that George Harrison famously executed to perfection, impressing John Lennon enough for the latter to recruit him to Beatles forerunners, The Quarrymen.